Human Rights Support Mechanism Program
The Human Rights Support Mechanism is a project of the PROGRESS consortium, which provides technical assistance and support to partners and beneficiaries in developing countries around the world to protect and promote human rights.
Promote and protect human rights.
Mitigate effects of human rights abuses.
Provide remedies to victims.
Respond rapidly to urgent and unforeseen crises.
The Human Rights Support Mechanism (HRSM) is a five-year leader with associates (LWA) cooperative agreement that USAID funds in order to implement its Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG) Strategy. HRSM focuses on objective #3 for that strategy: protect and promote universally recognized human rights.
Freedom House is the primary partner with USAID on this award but we work with a consortium of partners (the PROGRESS consortium) that collectively have decades of experience working on human rights issues in more than 100 countries. The consortium members (including ABA/ROLI, Internews, Pact, and Search for Common Ground) provide a wide range of technical assistance and support to partners and beneficiaries in developing countries around the world to achieve the following objectives:
- Improve enabling environments for preventing and addressing human rights violations and abuses;
- Implement effective response actions to mitigate the impact of human rights violations and abuses;
- Implement effective remedies to human rights violations and abuses;
- Identify effective approaches for protecting human rights; and
- Implement rapid response activities in urgent or unforeseen crises.
Improving enabling environments includes such activities as strengthening normative frameworks (laws and policies), institutions, and actions that help safeguard against violations. It also includes linking cultures of tolerance and respect for the rule of law with the prevention of abuses. The term remedy refers to judicial and non-judicial measures to provide redress to individual victims of human rights abuses, to combat impunity for abuses, and to seek the accountability of perpetrators. Responses are actions such as public awareness campaigns and statements by international organizations to help mitigate the impact of abuses, regardless of our ability to end them or “set them right.”
HRSM employs a number of analytical tools to improve the positive impact of its programs. To conduct activities in a way that is appropriate to the local context, HRSM projects incorporate an Applied Political Economy Analysis (APEA) and a gender and inclusion lens. Pact provides input on or conducts the APEA and ABA/ROLI provides HRSM with a Senior Gender and Inclusion Advisor who is consulted throughout each project. Additionally, HRSM implements data collection and analysis activities through its learning plan and monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) system that allows us to generate and share information about good ways to implement and see results from human rights programs in different contexts.
Human Rights Support Mechanism Award Facts
- $300M total ceiling for Associate Awards
- $25M Ceiling for the Leader Award
- $1.75M minimum annual add-on funding for rapid response
- Initial period of performance from Oct. 2016 - Sept. 2021 with a two-year Cost Extension through Sept. 2023
- 14 Implementing partners
With more than 150 years of collective experience successfully implementing hundreds of human rights projects in over 100 countries, the PROGRESS consortium combines deep substantive expertise with the practical capabilities essential to achieving HRSM’s objectives.
5 Primary Partners
Primary partners work collectively with USAID to identify and implement HRSM-wide strategic priorities, develop and implement Associate Awards and rapid response activities, contribute quality evidence to the HRSM learning plan, and develop and disseminate knowledge products that benefit the wider human rights community.
PROGRESS—Protecting Global Rights through Sustainable Solutions— was constituted to convene leading practitioners in each of the key disciplines needed to build and strengthen local systems capable of protecting human rights.
- Freedom House is the lead implementer for the LWA and manages and coordinates all PROGRESS consortium efforts and overall award implementation. Freedom House also leads activities that support civil society organizations, activists, and social movements in their efforts to protect and promote human rights, as well as efforts to use ICT as a tool to protect rights.
- American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) focuses on providing technical legal assistance, training, research, and resources to strengthen formal justice sector institutions so they can more effectively fulfill their critical roles in protecting human rights. When appropriate, ABA ROLI also includes civil society actors in its programming.
- Internews leads activities that strengthen media’s ability to protect human rights and provides expertise to strengthen media actors’ physical and digital safety and security.
- Pact provides expertise and manages subawards to build the organizational capacity of beneficiaries. Pact also leads initiatives to integrate human rights activities into USAID programs in other sectors and provides expertise in political economy analysis.
- Search For Common Ground (SFCG) provides expertise in various areas in the context of peace building, reconciliation, and prevention activities. SFCG also provides security sector reform and community-led conflict resolution services, and contributes to programming with youth.
7 Associate Partners
Associate partners contribute expertise in specific thematic or technical areas on an as-needed basis for Associate Awards and rapid response activities.
- Synergía provides expertise to protect and promote the human rights of LGBTI persons.
- The International Center for Not-For-Profit Law provides expertise to strengthen legislation governing CSOs engaged in human rights protection.
- Mobility International provides expertise to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.
- OpenGlobalRights supports public opinion polling and surveying related to human rights issues.
- Videre provides support for video recording and documentation of human rights abuses.
- World Organization Against Torture provides assistance to support victims of torture, enforced disappearances, and summary executions.
- World Resources Institute provides expertise to ensure the protection of human rights in the context of environmental and sustainable development challenges.
2 Resource Partners
- RIWI provides support in the form of online citizen surveys to further leverage USAID resources.
- PROGRESS also works with a global law firm that provides pro bono assistance for human rights projects.
The HRSM Learning Plan
To support the broader human rights community in doing its work more efficiently and effectively, the HRSM Leader Award funds learning initiatives that identify and disseminate effective approaches for protecting human rights in both non-permissive and increasingly oppressive environments.
The HRSM learning plan emphasizes comparative learning across Associate Awards in order to build the evidence base for human rights work around the world. Our focus is largely on the implementation of programs, but we also draw on social science theory and empirical research to design ways to test assumptions in our programs.
Associate and Leader Award activities contribute evidence to help answer the following questions through standardized indicators from the HRSM M&E Plan, as well as additional analytic and participatory learning activities undertaken during the implementation of a project. The HRSM learning plan has two primary focus areas:
- Building denser and more diverse networks of human rights defenders as part of a systems-based approach. Research has shown that properties of HRD networks influence both their success at achieving their goals and protect them from repression. We are using civic network analysis to help our on-the-ground partners reflect on these aspects of their own networks and to incorporate network building activities in their work.
- Identifying effective practices for building partners’ trust and mitigating the risks of intervening in closed and closing environments. While HRSM takes a “do no harm” approach to human rights work, that doesn’t mean “take no risks.” We are using participatory evaluation methods to look at ways that our program implementation can do a better job of helping our partners take smarter risks and mitigate the psycho-social effects of increased activism, especially among marginalized groups.
HRSM distributes its learning products publicly. The Human Rights Hub on the DME for Peace platform shares knowledge products and other relevant resources with the wider human rights community.
This program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of PROGRESS and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.
HRSM Programming and Interventions
Rapid response interventions respond to “action-forcing events” with the goal of countering, preventing, or minimizing human rights abuses and restrictions on operating environments for human rights defenders.
Featured Program: Monitoring Human Rights in Eastern Ukraine During the Coronavirus Pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic, and responses to the pandemic by Ukrainian government and de facto separatist authorities, have led to serious human rights challenges among the most vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine. Freedom House is working with Vostok SOS and Truth Hounds to document, report on, and address human rights abuses and challenges connected to the pandemic.